"Dear Eating Disorder, Saying Goodbye"
First off, let me thank you. You helped me cope when I didn't have the tools. You numbed me when the pain was greatest, you kept me company when the loneliness was unbearable and gave me identity when I didn't know who I was. You even filled me up at night so I could fall asleep easily.
We have been together for more years than I can believe but I am ready to stand on my own now. It has taken education, soul searching, unconditional love, and a half a decade of weekly therapy to get me to this point, so please don't think I enter this decision lightly. I didn't realize how enmeshed we were until I decided to say goodbye.
I no longer get the delicious high from eating 'bad' foods. I no longer strive to be super skinny for auditions. I am tired of the balancing act of compensating doesn't make me feel sneaky or powerful anymore, just exhausted. And I simply no longer need the numbing effect that I got from the Shhhhh-gar. I am ready to reach my goals without sabotaging myself for one more tryst with you.
Part of me is sad to see you go, but we both know our relationship was unhealthy. We had a love/hate relationship but now I love myself enough to handle pretty much anything life throws at me, without your help. I don't hate you, I see how much I needed you over the years, but I also see now that the relief I got from you was only temporary at best. In fact, I often felt worse in the morning after a night with you and some ice cream.
I was wondering if I should send you off to 'help' someone else. But decided to send you to heaven where you will see things clearly, too. And I hope you look down on me and are proud of me. I am physically and emotionally healthier than I've probably ever been. I have lost 50 pounds and work-out almost daily. I have learned to make choices around food, and am able to have a treat on occasion, but I no longer use sugar 2 to 3 times a day and overeat at every meal the way I use to when I came into the program.
"I made the decision to try one last thing"
For over 30 years I have been obese – using food to console myself, to please others, to find pleasure in, to hide and escape, etc. After I broke through the 200 lb. barrier, my weight was on a roller coaster through different diets, and began to soar past 300 lbs, and unbelievably ballooned to over 400 lbs. I became increasingly more sedentary, less socially active, and isolated myself at home. Finally my bigness and the way I was mistreating my body started catching up with me. I was achy from sitting, winded from just moving from here to there, found it hard to fit in chairs, cars and crowds, diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and my sense of self was spiraling down.
It was 3 1/2 years ago that I realized that I wasn't going to be able to fix this on my own, that I was getting dangerously close to giving up on life, so I made the decision to try one last thing. I'd give therapy a try, and a couple of people referred me to this clinic. Through participation with individual and group therapy, I've been undertaking a step-by-step approach of building a new, strong foundation for my life:
- Realized that I am most definitely a food addict, awakening to the multitude of ways I have used and abused food since I was a young child, trying to change my view and actions that 'Food Is Love', learning to recognize and battle the variety of triggers, and gradually tearing myself away from the constant focus on everything food
- In a calm and nonjudgmental environment, learning to believe in myself and to trust others, to speak my truth, to share the pain that I've hidden within, and to face and deal with the good, the bad, and the ugly and my role in it
- From the eating 'whatever I want, whenever I want, and however much I want' to choosing healthier foods and not answering the emotional calls to numb the internal pain or to distract with the thrill of the treat
- Lost about 80 lbs of physical weight, and although there's been ups and downs as I grapple with issues, this is the longest time I've pressed on without quitting
- From the shame and humility of seeing how sedentary, isolated and out of shape this childhood sports enthusiast had become to rebuilding endurance and muscles and to reclaiming the joys of being able to be active again on my own and with friends
- Through open conversations, being more active in helping out and doing rather than waiting to receive. I'm in the process of recapturing and creating a more open, honest, and passionate relationship with my life partner
- From the dependence on instant gratification, the easy fix and quick way out to learning that changing oneself takes time, to be willing to at least give it a try, to keep picking myself back up when I fall again and again, and to keep fighting for my life
"My life is opening up and I am truly hopeful"
The hole is where the love was supposed to be. And I feel like there was little, so very little. I was afraid to remember, afraid to look for that love and be disappointed or worse, so I hid behind food. That made entrance into the real world more and more difficult. I was often only interested in where my next sugar-high was coming from. I didn't believe friends were interested in what I had to say. What were my alternatives? I wondered how I might pick myself up and find a way out of the addiction? How I might find my way through the pain? I think I am coming to realize there is no going around the pain, although it has become clearer that I've gone around it my whole life. In the center, they say naming the problem will help. Naming and talking and feeling the hurt: the hurt, the rage, the unfairness, the cheated life. Once assuaged, hidden by food, these feelings are no longer taking a back seat. They want to be heard, acknowledged, verified and validated. They will be heard. The inner voice gets a little stronger, fed by attention from caring people. The hurt child comes out and shows herself, like a groundhog after a long winter. Buoyed by the warmth on the outside, the hurt girl shows tiny bits of her true self, speaking the truth more often, practicing life without its winter coat of lies, without the coating of blubber that protects and hides the real woman. Each foray into truth-telling strengthens her. And in doing so she heals. Eventually I hope the truth will win out. And I'm learning that instead of killing me, which is what I was afraid it would do, it actually brings life, more life. It brings hope for joy and liberation from my addiction into a depth of living I did not know possible.
Things have shifted for me. Food no longer has dominion over my life. Through meditation, I realized how thoughts—many with no basis in reality—were driving me. I am grounded now, finding my inner voice and letting it guide me. Exercise and eating right have become part of my life. I have lost thirty pounds, weighing less now than I did fifteen years ago. My body feels light. But the true lightness is in my being. I'm happier and less threatened by the winds of change. I have managed to fill the holes in my life without the use of food.